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New Ultrasound Technique Provides Clear Look at Hard- to-Diagnose Breast Cysts

New Ultrasound Technique Provides Clear Look at Hard- to-Diagnose Breast Cysts

A new ultrasound technique called breast harmonic imaging can be successfully used to diagnose hard-to-see breast cysts, thus eliminating the need for some biopsies, according to a study presented at a recent American Roentgen Ray Society meeting held in Seattle, Washington.

The study—which involved 30 patients with 117 breast cysts—found that harmonic imaging provides higher resolution and better detail of small cysts or cysts that are deeper in the breast than can be detected by conventional ultrasound, said Derek Muradali, MD, of the University Health Network and Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto, Canada.

Patients in the study underwent a conventional ultrasound examination and a harmonic imaging examination. Two radiologists reviewed the conventional ultrasound images and the harmonic images and found that the harmonic images were "superior to conventional ultrasound" in 80% of cases. The radiologists did not know which images were conventional or harmonic when they made their assessment.

Future Standard of Care?

"Harmonic imaging is now available on some ultrasound machines, and we simply flip a switch on the machine to change to the harmonic image," said Dr. Muradali. Harmonic imaging has been used in the past, but it is only recently that the linear transducers used in breast ultrasound have become available for use in harmonic imaging.

Harmonic imaging will likely become the standard of care for patients with cysts that are difficult to diagnose with conventional ultrasound, said Dr. Muradali. "In the past, we’ve been obliged to biopsy small cysts or those deep in the breast, because conventional ultrasound hasn’t provided the detail needed to accurately diagnose them. Harmonic imaging provides us with the means to avoid doing those biopsies." This saves the patient and the physician time, effort, and money, said Dr. Muradali.

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